The Christmas Promise

1 John 4:9

The Christmas season is always hard on people for one reason or another. It may be because we are suffering in poverty. Or perhaps there’s someone you love who longs to see you but isn’t able to for any number of reasons. Or maybe there is someone that loved you, but is no longer of this world. Sometimes plans are made to see one another but circumstances prevent this from happening. Maybe it was a card, or gift that you expected that never came. Maybe someone gave their word to you that this Christmas they wouldn’t let you down… and then did.

 But consider this: what if THE gift had never come? What if THE biggest gift of all was expected and never came? In 1 John 4:9 the Word of God talks of the reason we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate it because of a promise God made in Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin would bear a child and name him Immanuel. But that was years before the birth of Jesus. What would have happened if Gods promise of the coming Immanuel had never come to be? Or put another way: what if the promises of God were no more reliable than those of mortal man? 1 John speaks to me by saying that the promises of God are the only ones I can expect to happen.

But is the promise of God fulfilled because we deserve it? 

Every Christmas we enter the holiday with visions of sugarplums dancing in our childish heads and hopes that a jolly fat guy will drop down our chimney with gifts we deserve because we were good this year. How do we know he’s coming? Because the commercial told me my deservedness should allow me to expect him to come. But if I really examine myself, I know I deserve nothing less than Gods judgement because every day I sin a little. It may be as simple as having negative thoughts of my neighbor who chose not to say good morning or as egregious as stealing supplies from my overseers stores. I may think in the natural I deserve a break today, but I don’t deserve anything of the sort; especially at Christmas.

But God made me…and God made you…and God made our neighbor. God is our Father and because I am His son he loves me too much to treat me like a stranger. 1 John says that I can expect the only son of God to come not because I deserve life, but because my sin deserved death. Oh, but His love… His love was manifest in the person of his son wrapped in human flesh and given as a living sacrifice so that I would not die but live through his grace. Honestly I cannot think of a better gift that I know I can expect. I expect man to make promises all the time. On his whim, circumstance, or choice he may decide to reprioritize and deny his promise to me. But not God and that is why Christmas matters to me. I urge you to think of the promises that God has kept. The promise made that He is there with us in the joy and the pain. He is there in the valley and on the hill. The promise he would never again destroy the world and signed it with a rainbow. The promise that if we choose Him, and reject walking alone, God will walk with us all the days of our life. This is Christmas.

I ask you to remember that no matter whom you meet or what you read that tells you otherwise, you are worth it. You are a child of the living God and deserve his judgement but instead you have been given a Christmas gift called grace. You are loved even when you don’t think you deserve it and even when you don’t feel it. If you weren’t loved, Jesus would never have come. He never would’ve been born and he never would’ve fulfilled his father’s promise. My brothers and sisters, I wish you a very blessed, expectant, and promised Christmas.

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What shall I live for?

Hebrews 9:27-28

It is no surprise or mystery why Jesus came to dwell among us. He came to die so that when we reach our appointed time, we may have eternal life in him. 

But why are we to die? What purpose is there in our dying? This passage seems to offer a glimpse into the answer which I feel is less why we die but more why we are to live. 

Jesus died once for our sins and we are promised to see him again. He has conquered death and sin and will await us in the eternal with all power in his hands. So when we get there,  what shall be our testimony? What should he know about us when we see him again? Again…. when did you last see Jesus? Was it in a selfless act of kindness? A babies laugh? A miracle in the hospital? In the helping hand of a friend? Did you see Jesus? If you haven’t yet seen him, I encourage you to seek him out. Jesus is there if you have eyes to see and a heart that is open to his love. 

So when you see him again, what will be your report? This is the time of judgement (vs. 27) but this is not the end. While we yet live, this passage suggests that Jesus died bearing the sins of the world and will be seen again without that sin. Another passage teaches that the sins of the world are cast into the sea of forgetfulness. So what sins will we have? Only those we carry with us. It seems to me that means that it is not prescribed that we, born into sin, need be burdened by it as we transition into the eternal. If we repent and present ourselves to Jesus knowing we were in a sin sick world but not of that sin sick world, I believe that he will receive us as faithful stewards and will bid us enter in and join him in the place with many rooms which he prepared for us. 

Reject sin, embrace love, seek him, and when the THE of judgement comes, the only one who was ever wholly without sin may yet receive you into his bosom. 

Father, I ask you to purge me of evil report and make me more like your image. Make me into a disciple that is a light unto the world. This I pray. Amen. 

Lead me through temptation 

James 1:2-3

Our father, which art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Forever. And ever. Amen. 

For all my life I’ve never looked at this model prayer and considered the importance of discerning and comparing it to James 1 and psalms 23:4. 

I know of no one who wants to actually walk into evil. I know of no one who actually desires to be led into the tempters snare. But the fact is God never promised to guide evil away from our path or that by entering into relationship with God would be a “get out of jail free card” from bad things happening. In fact it’s been written that trouble will come, but joy cometh in the morning. But to get to that morning, you must first get through the night.  James 1 is teaching me that I should not be bitter and callous towards God when I am tempted. In fact I should rejoice. But how is that possible? 

Think of of it like this: 

God knows his child and what we can handle with his help.  There is no temptation that is greater than us so long as we know that greater is he that is within us. We must be open to the fact that when we are tempted by strange fruit we can be confident in knowing that we won’t fly over it unscathed, or be wended around it unaffected. But instead we will know the love and power of God as he hardens us into hammered iron by his presence as we pass through it. We are to know that when dark nights come, and temptations come to steer us into troubled times, God will be with us. He hasn’t abandoned us or left us to our own devices. He is with us and by going through it with him we will learn his presence and his peace and patience. 

In these troubled times, I know I could stand to learn a little more patience. So God, I ask you today to allow temptation to come my way. In that temptation I will count it joy for I know you are not the God of temptation but will be with me as I pass through it. In Jesus name. Amen. 

I don’t know…

Ecclesiastes 11:5
Today, we are more connected than ever before when you consider the ready availability of the internet, wifi enabled equipment, social media platforms, 24 hour news cycle, town gossips, and online news sources. Very little occurs now that doesn’t get noticed by a camera, cellphone, videographer, or newsman. Privacy is not even available in any public places or private. The mysteries of the depths of the ocean are fast becoming known and considered old-hat. The lenses which we fit on Hubble and SETI have effectively removed so much of the unknown from our visions of the eternal beyond the moon, it’s actually a shock when we see or hear something that is new. So little is considered new and a first it will often become the headline on the six o’clock news and then immediately be relegated to the back page as a casual interest. 
Nothing is new under the sun and you can’t tell me anything is new because it’s all been said before. Conceptually and perhaps even medically I am fully aware of how the bones in the human body knit and expand in density. Books exist that explain just how the child forms in the womb and how the movie was made by seeing the behind the scenes featurette. 
But then I read Ecclesiastes 11 and all of that goes out of the window. 
The writer of this passage is not trying to get us to understand that even if we look hard under a microscope we should disbelieve what our eyes tell us. The writer of this passage is not saying that with a well attuned ultrasound the millions of changes that occur to a fetus will not be plain to all. It is not simply DNA deciding to twist this direction and that, or the blood flowing through that arterie or another. It’s more dazzlingly glorious than witnessing the upturned thumb being thrust into an open mouth or twins who embrace in the womb before they can even see. What is the incredible and inexplicable source of creation to the glory of God is the true mystery. Why would God form us in his image? Why would he look at us and say that is it’s good? What the writer is saying that the powerful gift and breath of life from God is what truly makes the bones coalesce into a complex dance of sinu, marrow, and cartelange forming a whole system of structural support for a human body. But that the reasons behind all of that are a mystery to us. 
The motivation of God to create is not for us to understand. It’s not for us to “get” why He would be so interested in seeing us enter into relationship with each other and Him. It is not for us to know what designs the creator of all has in his mystical trestle-board, upon which the designs of all that ever was, is, and will be is drawn. 
I know it’s disappointing but there really are some things we aren’t supposed to know. It flies in the face of our own perceived greatness. Perhaps it’s because we assume we are to be in dominance over the earth rather than in dominion. Maybe we should read Genesis again….
In due season and as God knows our young minds can absorb, I am sure of one thing: God will reveal. He is not a god of confusion or disorder. He gives us the wisdom and foresight to make choices and love and grow. He gives us so much, how dare we be so arrogant to suggest that we deserve to know more than he already has shown us about his plans and designs for us? I am sure that if we could handle the truth, as someone once said, it would be shown to us. But who’s to say it hasn’t already been shown us? Perhaps we were shown the truth and we misused it. Abused it. Refused to be held account for it. Perhaps even refused it. Maybe God wants us to learn more about ourselves before he gives us even more to absorb. God knows we’ve found spectacular ways to waste good knowledge after bad. Imagine if we knew how He thinks too? I’m reminded of the line in the sand at the base of mount Sinai that God told the Israelites not to cross or die. And when they wanted to see God only saw a small portion of him hidden by meteorological fury. That was enough to tell me that some people can handle the face of God and most others can not. I think I’m in the latter camp. 
God, I ask that you make me content in you. That you grow me to understand nothing and trust in none but you. I ask that you limit my vision to you and that anything else that whorl compete for attention that should be yours alone, gets away and finds parts unknown. I ask that how you think be your understanding alone. That you remove arrogance from me and that your children on this world find contentment and peace in your vision, love, omnipotence and omniscience. Amen